Zazu raises £200,000 through crowdfunding platform Seedrs to launch a digital-only bank in Africa

Zazu, which began at the Ignite Accelerator as an e-commerce platform for farmers has raised over £200,000 for a 7.51% equity at a pre-money valuation of £2.5m to build a digital-only bank in Africa, bringing financial inclusion to millions.
Co-founded by Perseus Mlambo, CEO, Adam Farah, CTO and Alessandra MartiniCOO, the UK firm had sought £150,000 for 5.73 percent equity. The 21st century bank for Africa is targeting Zambia’s 1.2 Million adults in formal employment, 1.4 Million running SME’s and 2 million emerging farmers who it says are unhappy with the high cost of banking.

“We are aiming to issue 100,000 accounts in Zambia before December 2018. We are currently in talks with a potential sponsor bank, with whom we hope that we would be able to expand to other African countries,” the team said.

Zazu will have a prepaid card with a companion app for users to tack spending and control on the card. The card will cost $2 with a monthly subscription of $2. The bank works simply. Users download Zazu, register and order their Zazu cards. Then they top up their Zazu account with their existing credit or debit card, and get ready to access all of the features of a cutting edge digital only account.

“Once the card is in your hands, you just activate it by following the instructions provided. Once activated, the Zazu card can be used at 44 million locations in over 220 countries worldwide,” says the firm on its site.

Users can set spending goals, see where they are spending their money and know exactly how much is left on their card, right from the iOS or Android phone app.
Zazu will also have cash deposits at participating retailers, Zoona, MTN, Airtel wallets or buying Zazu vouchers from distributors.

Engineers Without Borders Canada invests in startup SME lending marketplace Bloom Impact


Ghana’s Bloom Impact, a machine learning loans marketplace accessible from smartphones has raised undisclosed funding from Engineers Without Borders Canada, EWB Ventures, an early-stage investor in innovative Africa-based social enterprises.

EWB has also invested in M-ShuleNumida TechnologiesFarmDrive and Rent-to-Own. Its latest investment in Africa will allow MSMEs to create a digital profile, learn about and apply for financial services, and receive offers that best meet their needs.

According to Elena Haba, Legal and Investment Officer with EWB’s Strategy and Investment team, “For us, the unique approach and scalability of Bloom’s potential impact was most compelling. By working on closing the financial gap faced by MSME’s, Bloom is helping these small businesses grow and generate much-needed employment opportunities for underserved individuals.”

EWB believes that by supporting MSMEs to thrive, the jobs generated through them and the wealth created by them can ultimately help alleviate poverty. EWB also thinks Bloom will be particularly useful for women, who face many barriers in accessing traditional banking and financial services.

In addition to the tremendous convenience and cost savings Bloom Impact provides for MSMEs, creating financially educated business owners is also a critical component.

Bloom Impact also partners with banks and microfinance institutions and it disrupts their customer acquisition approach by cutting costs and providing digital, eligible, validated, scored and financially-educated customers.

The investment will help Bloom Impact to grow its product adoption, referral and incentive programs, as well as advance product development.

“EWB understands the barriers that prevent scale and growth in emerging markets and how social enterprises can have an impact,” says Bloom Impact Co-Founder and CEO, Carol Caruso. “We are delighted to partner with EWB due to this experience on the ground, our shared mission to drive inclusive finance and EWB’s wealth of talent management support, which is critical to our success.”

SolarNow raises $6m in debt financing from SunFunder, responsAbility and Oikocredit to expand its reach



SolarNow has received a $6 million facility lead by SunFunder with the participation of  responsAbility Investments AG and Oikocredit to expand their pay-as-you-go or solar lease offerings to reach more people living without access to energy.

The $6 million facility is SolarNow’s second structured asset finance instrument, SAFI will help the firm expand its client’s pay-as-you-go or solar lease offerings to reach more people living without access to energy.

According to Willem Nolens, SolarNow CEO, “This new step of our partnership will enable us to continue tackling the massive unmet market opportunity in East Africa of providing affordable energy to millions of off-grid households, and to reach 70% of Uganda’s off-grid population with solar home systems.”

SunFunder acted as the Arranger, Lender and Facility Agent for the $6 million facility, with each lender providing $2 million to the facility.

SolarNow sells, finances and installs modular solar systems and solar appliances (TVs, fridges, water pumps, etc.) to rural households and entrepreneurs through a network of 55 branches and 750 staff in Uganda and Kenya.

DFS Lab calls for applications for its third fintech bootcamp holding in Tanzania


DFS Lab, a fintech accelerator funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is accepting applications for their third fintech bootcamp, which will be held Dec. 3-9, 2017 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

DFS will give up to USD 50K in funding to top fintech businesses and six months in DFS Lab’s proven approach accelerator.

“We are excited to have the opportunity to invest in breakthrough technologies that can help reach the billions of people in South Asia and Africa who lack financial services,” said DFS Lab Director Dr. Jake Kendall. “Our goal is to identify, invest, and work with early-stage companies who are building transformative technologies that will help improve the lives of unbanked citizens.”

Since launching in 2015, DFS Lab has invested more than in 18 startups. The Lab is currently interested in entrepreneurs that are creating solutions for customers that function on non-smartphones, as well as new approaches for closing the financial services gender gap. But they encourage applications from any great team with a breakthrough idea.

Over the past year, finalists in previous cohorts representing companies headquartered in Africa and South Asia went through intensive 1-week boot camp programs in Tanzania and Sri Lanka. In addition to financing, the companies selected receive six months of intense mentorship and integration into a global network of top experts who have agreed to advise them.

Entrepreneurs who wish to be considered should apply to DFS Lab Bootcamp Three by Nov. 3, 2017, at dfslab.net/apply.

Kenya’s Pezesha and Pula, an insurance intermediary for small-scale farmers in Africa and Ghana’s Inclusive, an API that verifies financial identities across Africa and US-based Teller are set to raise $250,000 in funding from DFS Lab.

Meet telecommunications Expert and an emerging women leader Topy Muga,


Financial inclusion and telecommunications expert Topy Muga is one of the TechWomen emerging women leaders in Africa. In fact, The techie is actually a decorated financial inclusion and fintech personality with a very impressive experience in the digital world, spanning thirteen years. However, where did it all start?

Topy is actually an alumnus of Alliance Girl’s High School where she sat for her high school certificate and proceeded to the Jomo Kenyatta University for a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Information Technology and a Higher Diploma in Management of Information Systems from Strathmore University. The tenacious lady was also lucky to get a Nelson Mandela scholarship to study at INSEAD Business School in France where she received a Masters in Business Administration.

According to her website, Topy strongly believes that financial inclusion is the means to accelerating economic empowerment for the underserved populations. She advocates for greater access to financial services by all men and women, young and old.

In this regard, Ruth has been the M-Pesa Principal Product Manager at Vodafone Group based in London, England where she led M-Pesa commercial and strategy for emerging markets, product development and new markets launches.

Besides her expertise in financial inclusion, Topy is also a fintech expert. and her personal mission is to enable as many individuals and businesses around the world experience other ways to enhance digital, tech, and socio-cultural inclusion in achieving their aspirations.

She has spearheaded financial inclusion initiatives during her work in organizations including Vodafone and Airtel.

Prior to joining Visa, Topy headed Airtel Kenya’s mobile money business. She was a member of the Payments Association of Kenya (PAK) and the Mobile Money Association of Kenya (MMAK) steering committees whose objectives are to increase financial inclusion with assistance of the Financial Sector Deepening (FSD) Kenya.

Topy has held several roles in general management, strategy, operations, technology, and product and business transformation as well which have contributed immensely to her career journey.

Currently, she is the Senior Director for Financial Inclusion Africa at Visa, based in Nairobi, Kenya. She is committed to driving the growth in access to financial services for the underserved population of Sub Saharan Africa.

To add another feather to her cap, Topy was chosen as one of the ten women from Kenya for the  TechWomen.  TechWomen is an Initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs fintech that brings emerging women leaders in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) from Africa, Central Asia, and the Middle East together with their counterparts in the United States for a professional mentorship and exchange program.

TechWomen connects and supports the next generation of women leaders in STEM fields by providing them access and opportunity to advance their careers and pursue their dreams.

During the five-week program, participants engage in project-based mentorships at leading companies in Silicon Valley, participate in workshops and networking events throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and travel to Washington, D.C. for targeted meetings and special events to conclude the program.

Topy is currently in the USA  where she and fellow Kenyan women have just won a seed grant that will help them implement the digniti project that aims to improve toilet sanitation in rural primary schools in Kenya.

Apart from her role in driving financial inclusion, Topy enjoys and regularly participates in initiatives, conferences and events that seek to promote inclusion and encourage women participation in technology. Some of the notable ones include San Francisco International Women Entrepreneurs Forum (SFIWEF) in Spain, London School of Economics (LSE) Africa Summit in United Kingdom and Thought Leadership at the ICT4D  Conference in  Rockefeller Bellagio Center in Italy.


Jumia to give online loans to its vendors across Africa to bolster its inventory


Rocket Internet-backed Jumia has launched an online lending programme for its merchants in Kenya, Nigeria, Egypt, Morocco and Ivory Coast helping them borrow loans to grow their inventory, and help it become an everyday and everything store.

By leveraging on transactional, operational and behavioral data on its vendors, Jumia believes it can work with partners to provide credit facilities to vendors who are the B2C platform’s lifeline.

“We are always working with those partners and we bring them business online and by just listening to them we realized how difficult it was for them to access funding. So we realized they had a problem and we thought we could help them solve their problem by using the Jumia data to provide them with better financing opportunities,” Jumia co-CEO Sacha Poignonnec  told TechMoran on the side lines of the TechCrunch’s Startup Battlefield Africa held in Nairobi.

The whole idea that the vendors-technically SMEs have little access to financing and if they do, it’s so expensive. So Jumia decided to mine its vendor data, get the right financing partners who will extend credit to the vendors to help the SMEs grow their online businesses.

Jumia is therefore creating a virtual Sacco where the vendors can access better finance from various financial institutions to create a win-win situation for both Jumia, its merchants and the financial institutions.


With low interest rates of up to 12% per annum, Jumia believes the loans will help provide the much needed working capital vendors need to buy goods to sell on the Jumia platform. With more items on Jumia, there will be less need for guys to shop offline or visit other sites such as Konga in Nigeria among others.

However, for Jumia this is about choice and price for its customers as Africa is in the early stage of ecommerce and the move will imply shoppers can be sure of finding whatever good or service they are looking for online instead of looking for elsewhere.

“It’s really about bringing the relevant products to people and when we started a lot of transactions were for people to buy mobile phones and fashion but once you have bought one mobile phone you cannot buy a mobile phone everyday. So, it’s really about fulfilling people’s needs. Today, if you go to Jumia in Nigeria  or in Kenya you will see a lot of grocery items,  fashion, hygienic items, diapers, cream toothpaste and pampers, you see a lot of new products bringing which are fulfilling everyday needs to the people. To us its about about bringing more and more choice to people and better prices to the people that when they go to Jumia they can always save time and money because they can find whatever they are looking for.”

The firm has not mentioned the financial partners and its still mum whether the public would soon be allowed to access loans on Jumia, but that is the plan, to make it the go to place for everything.

That’s the push Jumia is doing now. Going down to people’s needs and making sure that whatever it is they need they can find it on Jumia. So that Jumia becomes an option for them to buy anything anytime. Jumia will need to sort out its instant citywide delivery to become Africa’s everything everyday store and reign on estate kiosks.


Peer-to-peer marketplace Pezesha to participate at the Blackbox Connect 20 in Silicon Valley


Kenya’s Pezesha.com a peer-to-peer micro-lending marketplace for Africa has been selected to participate at the upcoming Blackbox Connect 20 accelerator programme, a two-week residential programme for startup founders from across the globe.

Holding in Silicon Valley in November this year, Blackbox is an entrepreneur-first approach that aims to make entrepreneurs the core engine for global economic growth, and that they need someone in their corner as they build the future.

Blacbox helps talented startup founders emerge as stronger leaders to help them redefine what’s possible for themselves, their company, their community, and the world.

Pezesha, which has given more than 5,000 borrowers from a pool of more than 100 local lenders in just 10 months of operation, says it aims to use the two-week stay to connect with ”fellow talented founders from more than 40 countries to share ideas, networks and partnerships and build relationships with the pool of experienced venture capitalists, and subject matter experts as well as access to strategic resources to fuel Pezesha’s growth and global expansion.”

Blackbox says it’s rethinking the traditional accelerator model which largely focused on creating a pipeline for investors instead of working to create a strong foundation under the founder which elevates their long-term potential, expands their worldview, exposes them to new opportunities, and connects them to their own greatness.

Oolu raises ​​​​$3.2​​m Series A round from Persistent​​ Energy ​​Capital​​ & ​​Y ​​Combinator to expand in West Africa


Y Combinator start-up Oolu​, an off-grid solar companies in Senegal has raised $3.2m led by ​Persistent Energy Capital (PEC), and was joined by ​Y Combinator (YC) ​and other seed investors. ​

Oolu will use the money to further invest in its current​​ operations ​​in​​ Senegal​​ and​​ Mali,​​and ​​to​​ expand ​​into ​​a​​ third​​ market ​​in ​​2018.

According to Dan​​ Rosa,​​ Co-Founder ​​and​​ Chief​​ Executive ​​Officer ​​of​​ Oolu,​​ “This fundraise is an important milestone, and a further boost for us at a very exciting time for the company where we see real and significant opportunities in the West African markets.

The two year-old firm distributes affordable in-home solar kits with three adjustable lights and two USB plugs, powered by a battery that holds a charge for up to six hours with maximum output. For a low monthly fee, paid through mobile money, Oolu installs the system and performs any necessary maintenance, including free battery replacements and system upgrades.

The company has ambitious expansion plans in terms of both its product offering and geographic reach. Although the first consumer offering is solar home systems, a number of different products are being piloted, and Oolu’s vision extends to becoming the leading financial services​​ provider ​​to ​​rural​​ households ​​in​​ West​​ Africa ​​and ​​beyond.

The $3.2 million round of equity investment follows its seed round in 2015, and will support Oolu’s continued growth and strategy as it seeks to address the energy needs of the more than 150 million ​​people​​ who ​​live ​​without ​​access ​​to​​ electricity ​​in​​ West​​Africa.

The off-grid sector has seen more than US$360 million in investment across Africa in the past five years and continues to grow rapidly due to a drop in component and storage prices. Given the high barriers to entry in this sector, Oolu’s established market position—selling over 25,000 solar home systems (SHS) in under 2 years—experienced leadership team and strong investor backing mean it is well-placed to capitalise on wider market growth and better deliver clean energy​​ services ​​to ​​underserved​​ customers.

”Oolu has grown impressively quickly in one of the most unpredictable and difficult markets in the world. We funded them precisely because those are the qualities that they will need to make their business successful, and they are ​​already ​​on ​​the ​​right​​ path,” said Geoff ​​Ralston,​​ Partner ​​at ​​Y​​Combinator.



How to find Investors for your Startup




Africa has experienced a rampant rise of inventions and startups that have gone a long way from the minds of inventors to disrupting the Sub Saharan ecosystem solving very many problems that have been a setback to the growth of the continent for ages. From the rise of startups in fintech helping in payment related challenges, innovations in media and advertising mechanisms, health sector, eCommerce and so many others. It is evident that through technology Africa will unleash its potential as a continent on the rise with new opportunities coming up thus entrepreneurs with brilliant ideas have the chance to bring them to life.

Starting a startup and scaling it up has not been a walk in the park to many African change makers due to so many prevailing factors and conditions. One of the biggest factor is the struggle to have a sustaining financial muscle that makes it possible  for startups to develop their products and services and growing their customer base. The ability of a startup to attract a pool of investors is one of the ways of ensuring a startup survives  its initial stages. Investors who believe in an idea have the power to determine the success of a startup but the big question remains on where to find the suitable investors who will pump in finances and advice. Here are several primary strategies startups can use to meet investors.

Cold Call Submissions

There are countless lists of Angel Investor groups online over the internet where you can research and find out what firms do deals in what industries and then send them a proposal to them for review. Be sure that your chances of even getting an answer is at best one percent and your chance of that answer being a yes is about the same as that of getting hit by a car crossing the street while reading this article. The main point is that you really need to have your idea pitched at its best since you are using email to reach out to investors.

Using a Deal Broker

Way back before the internet when dinosaurs roamed the earth, If you wanted to get the attention of an Angel Investor, Venture Capital firms or Private equity firms you had to go to a broker pay a good sum of money to have them develop a plan for you and then use their connections as a broker to introduce you to deal makers. Most of these ‘plan sharks’ as I would call them, are just looking to take money and have no more chance of getting your startup funded than one percent and above.

Online Communities

There are so many online communities such as Gust, SeenInvest and Crunchbase which are a den of high profile investors that out lay what each of the investors are looking to invest in. It is therefore hard to go wrong with a strategy like that and often has a good chance of hearing from the investors

Local Angel Investor Network

Some investors prefer to invest locally. Local investors have access to inside data on local business startups and can plug in you into a good number of opportunities. Most of these networks have a range of the amount of funds they are wiling to put in startups but they offer a good chance for entrepreneurs. A good example is Kenya’s KCB Lions Den.

Retain a Business or Patent Legislator

The best way to get introduced to ‘people who know people’ is to hire the best lawyer or attorney that money can buy, pay the retainer, take them to lunch once in a while then have them introduce you to other clients of theirs that are in a similar industries that can help you move your deal forward. This has a high chance of success and lunch is always good.

Crowdfund It

This happens to be one of the widely used means of funding startups where many small amounts of money are raised from a large number of people over the internet. It involves  three parties: The project initiator who proposes the project, individuals or groups who support the project as see it being viable and a moderating organization which brings the parties together Kickstarter being an example

Private Investors

The best chance of getting funded are private investors who are actively seeking and building opportunities. This is a much better odds if you have your act together. If you have something that is ready then it is the best chance of moving forward you will find.


DumaPay adds mVisa, simplifies online payments using Email Pay to take on Mula


Direct pay Online Group has revamped its little known payments app Dumapay pairing the card reader and the merchants’ phone using Bluetooth to help merchants save time every time they want to make a sale.

The company said through a statement that merchants will also enjoy the DUMAPAY app 2.0 as it comes with a more detailed transaction history and they will be able to know which payments were accepted and which ones failed in real- time.

Dumapay is taking on Cellulant’s Mula which is proving to be a hit with over 10,000 installs compared to Dumapay’s less than 100 downloads. The revamped app will see merchants receive instant payment transactions through Quick Pay or email Pay in real time via Visa, Mastercard, American Express, M-PESA, Airtel Money, MTN Money and Tigo.

The revamped app will also allow merchants to receive payments in multiple currencies and show them their transaction history via the app to track payments going in and out.

Direct pay Online Group says the new DUMAPAY version 2.0 supports multiple payment options in Africa and merchants using the app will be able to accept card, e-wallets and mobile payments such as Visa, Mastercard, American Express, M-PESA, Airtel Money, MTN Money, Tigo and mVisa.

“This new version of the DUMAPAY payments app ensures that our merchants are efficient and offer greater security when dealing with customer information. It also opens them up to accept payments from all major credit cards, mobile money and e-wallets” Eran Feinstein, the DPO Group CEO stated.


WorldRemit partners Morocco’s Wafacash to expand instant money transfers across Africa


Digital money transfer firm WorldRemit has partnered with Morocco-based financial services firm Wafacash to scale up instant money transfers across West and Central Africa.

The companies already work together in Morocco and Senegal, but will expand into Cameroon, Benin, Burkina Faso, Niger and Cote D’Ivoire before the end of the year.

The new service will let WorldRemit customers in over 50 countries transfer money as easily as sending an instant message, using the app or website.

According to Samira Khamlichi, Chief Executive at Wafacash, “By extending our partnership with WorldRemit we wish to contribute to the improvement of the financial inclusion in our country and to the diversification of legal financial channels. Our extended partnership will allow WorldRemit customers in over 50 countries to send money to our cash pick up locations across the region.”

Wafacash is a subsidiary of Attijariwafa Bank. The company currently has pay-out points at Wafacash offices and Attijariwafa Bank branches and agents, enabling customers to pick up funds quickly and conveniently.

Remittances in the region have experienced a decade of strong growth, amounting to a projected $34 billion across Sub-Saharan Africa in 2017. According to the World Bank, the value of remittances to Cameroon, Cote D’Ivoire and Senegal grew by an estimated 86%, 130% and 74% respectively, between 2006 and 2015.

Morocco alone received over $7 billion in 2015 according to the World Bank, the equivalent of 7% of its GDP.

This expansion means more cash pickup points in the region, making our service even more convenient to  WorldRemit customers.

In June WorldRemit announced a global integration with Google’s Android Pay, followed by a partnership with Huawei’s mobile money platform across Africa. WorldRemit customers now complete 700,000 transfers every month from more than 50 send countries to over 140 receiving destinations.


This insurance policy covers systems outage in the Internet of Things era


With the advent of Internet of Things, data is one of the most important assets in the world yet its not covered by standard property insurance policies.

Therefore any interruption to an organisation’s systems means an interruption to firms to conduct their core businesses. Data protection should therefore be at the center of every organisation to avoid a hack attack or computer virus or in case a malicious employee brings down these systems.

But where can one find cover for business interruption during such attacks? In 2016 alone, Kenya lost about Sh18 billion ($175 million) to cybercrime with over 48.4 per cent of all government agencies reporting data loss due to a virus attack according to an ICT security survey conducted by Kenya National Bureau of Statistics & Communications Authority of Kenya (CA)

The report adds that 5.1% of businesses and 7.1% of State institutions are hacked annually, and that while most businesses were eager to download antivirus software, only 15 percent had systems to detect intruders.

Innovative insurance products are therefore needed to provide cover against attacks, eliminate exposure to Cyber risk and even protect third party data or data users.

Cyber Enterprise Solutions, a product from Aon Kenya, is that cover of the future. Unlike traditional policies, the policy is designed to cover property damage arising out of a network security breach; data exposure, business interruption and systems failure compensation. The policy also covers cyber terrorism and any other liabilities caused by an attack.

AON says the cyber risk solution is a response to the growing cyber criminality threatening both corporates and SMEs targeted by hackers with ransomware. Aon Cyber Enterprise Solution provides insurance cover for loss of profits associated with systems outage that might be caused by a “non-physical” threat like a computer virus.

Airtel Money launches M-Fanisi, a savings & loan facility to take on M-Shwari & KCB M-Pesa



Kenya’s Maisha Microfinance Bank has partnered with Airtel Money to launch M-Fanisi – a savings and loan mobile money solution targeted at Airtel Money subscribers to help them save and borrow money via their mobile phones.

According to Prasanta Das Sarma, Managing Director of Airtel Kenya, “This partnership offers Airtel Money customers more for less, in that they can borrow affordably and save at competitive interest rates, in addition to enjoying the lowest charges on voice and data services in the market.”

M-Fanisi says it’s key competitive features include access to loans repayable within 7 days, 14 days and 30 days at an attractive one-off facility fee of 3%, 5% and 7.5% respectively with excise duty applicable on the fees.

Fixed deposit accounts can be opened for a period of 1 to 12 months and earn attractive interest of between 8.50% p.a. to 11.25% p.a. depending on period. Savings accounts opened earn interest of 7% p.a and money transfered in and out of the M-Fanisi to Airtel Money is FREE.

The two firms with developer Blue Sky Consultants says they have signed up over 50,000 accounts with over 20,000 loans accessed already at an average of up to 2000 loan applications per day but we are having a hard time believing them.

Airtel Money is technically dead and it won’t be of any use to Maisha Microfinance’s M-Fanisi. Airtel has just 1.7 million monthly active users out of its 6.3 million subscribers as at March 2017 down from 6.8 million subscriptions in December 2016 compared to Telkom Kenya’s 2.8 million and Safaricom’s 28.1 million customers according to a March 2017 quarterly report by Kenya Communications Authority. 

Instead of partnering with struggling Airtel, Maisha Microfinance would have just launched a smartphone app to take on Tala and Branch which are open to both Safaricom’s M-PESA and Airtel Money subscribers. The partnership is likely to turn out to be the most unfruitful decision in the micro-finances lifetime.

Maisha Microfinance Bank also opened its third Branch and rolled out of the M-Doh (doh is old school street slang for money) a mobile-based application that allows customers to carry out all their banking needs, including making deposits and transfers and paying utilities.




Branch confirms its $2m funding & officially launches in Nigeria


Mobile financial services firm Branch has confirmed it raised KSh200m through a commercial paper arranged by Kenya’s Nabo Capital as TechMoran had earlier reported.

The firm has officially launched in Nigeria too, after reaching 450,000 customers in Kenya who have collectively taken out 2m loans totalling KSh 4 billion.

“Branch has achieved something unique in the Kenyan market. Despite being a startup that’s less than 3 years old, they have managed to issue a competitively-priced paper without relying on any external guarantees”, said Teresia Muthoni, General Manager of Advisory at Nabo Capital.

Since launching in the Kenyan market in the spring of 2015, Branch has seen strong demand for its unsecured loans. Applications for up to KSh 50,000 can be made via the Branch Android app, with successful applicants receiving their loans via M-Pesa in seconds.

The mobile lender has reached a monthly disbursement run-rate of KSh 400m and is growing its loan book by 15% every month. Branch used its loan book as collateral for the facility in one of the first deals of its kind.

Daniel Szlapak, Director of Africa for Branch, explains that the company will look to debt funding to expand its business worldwide.  “We expect to raise close to $50 million dollars in both equity and debt funding in the months ahead as we take the Branch App to emerging economies across the globe.”

The company expanded to Tanzania in 2016 and has recently started lending  in Nigeria.  Other markets across the globe will follow. Branch uses proprietary machine learning algorithm to make lending decisions. It uses advanced data science to calculate a credit score for its customers by analysing the information on their phone. Branch’s toughest competitor is Silicon Valley-based and heavily funded Tala formerly known as Mkopo Rahisi.

In December 2015, Branch became the first African company to raise investment from US firm Andreessen Horowitz, whose portfolio includes Facebook and AirBnB, closing a $9.2m Series A round. The mobile-based financial services company has since raised over $15m in equity and debt funding to date.

Tunisian online finance news startup Ilboursa.com raises $400,000 to expand to Kenya & Nigeria


Tunisian online finance news startup Ilboursa.com has raised $400,000 to expand to its news offerings in the MENA region and eventually expand to Kenya & Nigeria, reports Wamda.

The French-language startup sold 33 percent of its equity to Tunisian investment firm COTIF Sicar for US$ 400,000 as its first fundraising four years after it was launched with just $2,000.The firm will use the funds to launch into other Francophone African and develop an English version for Kenya and Nigeria.

Ilboursa.com founder, Ismail Ben Sassi graduated Toulouse School of Economics with a bachelor’s degree in economics and statistics and a Master’s degree in Finance at the Sorbonne and a Master specialized in Financial and Banking Techniques at the University Paris II-Panthéon-Assas.

After a short stint as a banker, he founded the site in 2013 and has run it ever since consulting for businesses and investors on stock exchanges in Tunis, Casablanca, Algiers and Abidjan. The expansion into more francophone Africa and an English version to cover Anglophone Africa will make the site Africa’s go to financial news platform taking on financial data platforms such as Abacus, Asoko Insight among others

Insurance comparison site Afrinsure.com wants to increase penetration of insurance products in Kenya


Afrinsure is a new online insurance insurance comparison site and marketplace in Kenya promising its users a huge inventory of insurance covers to compare and pick from and save money.

Founded last year by Jaime ter Linden, Afrinsure aims to increase market penetration of insurance products in the country by offering clients excellent services through e-commerce, with the best prices in the industry. The firm says it has partnered with major insurance firms in Kenya to offer the best packages and process claims promptly.

By bringing insurance comparison online and making the quotes available to anyone online, the platform hopes to not only increase the uptake of insurance but as well to increase the reach of the major insurance firms in Kenya and make insurance easy to understand, compare and acquire.

The platform is working with top insurance companies such as Jubilee Insurance, Britam, ICEA, CIC, Resolution Insurance, Kenya Orient among others to streamline the search and purchase of insurance policies online. Afrinsure offers Medical Plans, Travel Plans, Motor Covers and all other classes of General Insurance from a number of top insurance companies in Kenya.

The team says it offers free delivery within Nairobi, expert advice online and free claims support in a move to be the country’s preferred insurance comparison platform with transparent, easy to obtain and accessible information.

Prior to Afrinsure, Jaime ter Linden had launched ForeFinance to help farmers in developing countries to have access to markets and formal credit by providing necessary information from farmer organizations, traders and financial institutions to farmers. With that he hopes to take on platforms such as InsureAfrika, PesaBazaar and CompareGuru among others.

South Africa’s Standard Bank Group Joins INV Fintech Accelerator As A Partner


Standard Bank Group, has joined the INV Fintech accelerator program as a Partner, INV announced today.

Standard Bank which is the largest bank in Africa, joins several innovation-oriented financial services companies as INV Partners. The partnership will open up the African Fintech space for INV’s startups.

As part of its agreement, Standard Bank will participate in the accelerator activities of INV Fintech, including considering startups in the accelerator for investment, market trials and/or acquisition and also provide mentorship to startups in the INV accelerator.

Peter Schlebusch, Standard Bank Group Chief Executive of Personal and Business Banking commenting on the partnership said: “We are excited to partner with INV Fintech in their accelerator program. In a world that changes at an incredible pace, exposure to new start-ups and emerging technologies enables Standard Bank to learn and expose Africa to new technologies to drive her growth.”

Meanwhile, JJ Hornblass, Principal, IN Fintech said: “We are extremely proud to welcome Standard Bank to INV. Standard offers INV an invaluable path to the African financial services market, which has embraced mobile finance. We welcome the opportunity to seize on this dynamic emerging market, with Standard’s skilled guidance.”

INV Fintech is an initiative of Bank Innovation and Fiserv which was launched in 2015 to cultivate financial services startups around the world.

How a subsistence farmers’ problem led to the launch of Wala, a digital banking platform for Africa


Wala is a digital banking platform for Africa making banking FREE for everyone and completely changes the way consumer’s access, engage with, and use financial products and services.

From accounts, to payments, to insurance, Wala aims to make personal finance easier or more affordable for all. It’s philosophy is different. By working in partnership with banks and other financial services providers, Wala can offer zero-fee and below market rate products to mass market consumers. The Wala platform sits in between banks and customers eliminating many costs thereby creating a more efficient system for everyone. Building a savings culture is imperative! Wala’s number one priority is to protect customers and ensure they get zero-fee banking and affordable financial products so they can get on the path towards financial stability.

TechMoran caught up with Tricia Martinez, Wala’s Co-founder and CEO and this is what she told us.


What inspired you to launch Wala? Is Wala a result of your work in Uganda?

My work in Uganda absolutely influenced me to start Wala. I was spending time in Kitgum, Uganda where I had launched a mobile cash transfer solution for subsistence farmers in one of the most underserved areas of the country. We were doing some really incredible and impactful work, but I was conflicted. The women we were providing cash transfers to would receive mobile payments, go to an agent and pay a fee to cash out, and then place that money in cash boxes in their huts. They had no safe place to guard it, to grow it, or create more value from it. Whether a subsistence farmer living in rural Uganda or an Uber driver in Johanessburg, South Africa the problems remain the same- financial services are extremely costly and generally inaccessible due to reasons of inefficiency and distribution.  It was my time in Uganda that I realized banking was the problem, but also the answer. And from here, Wala was born!

Wala team

What have you done before Wala?

Prior to Wala I founded two companies and devoted my time to socially innovative initiatives in areas including microfinance, economic development, and women’s empowerment. My previous work ranges from cash transfer solutions in Sub-Saharan Africa to the development of an investment fund for underserved markets. I received my Masters of Public Policy from the University of Chicago’s Irving B. Harris School with a concentration in Development and Behavioral Economics. It was there that I began learning how small scale improvements could make lasting impacts through methods of financial innovation.

How does it work?

Once a user registers and download the app they can digitally register for a current account. At minimum, a user needs an ID book to register. Users can then open savings accounts. From here, users can deposit and withdraw money through partner ATMs and agents, receive direct deposits and inbound payments, send p2p payments to friends and family in the Wala network, buy airtime and pay bills, and login to check balance, move money between accounts, get insights into spending habits and history.

In the future, users will receive debit cards/prepaid cards to transact directly with merchants, get access to insurance, international payments, loans, and credit all through the Wala mobile platform!

Do you think South Africa is the right market for Wala? Why did you decide to launch in South Africa first?

While consumers throughout every African country need better banking and financial services, we strongly believe that South Africa is the best country for Wala to launch in given the customer base and financial industry.

The most important part of Wala is creating what I like to call a “consumer-driven” financial solution. Everything we do is for consumers and our goal is to provide zero-fee accounts to all Africans so financial empowerment becomes a reality. Over the last 10 months, we have seen a huge increase in our customer base specifically in South Africa. We have almost 1M South Africans who have signed up for a Wala financial community via Facebook and given how quickly that number is growing we want to focus our energy here.

Additionally, South Africa is the financial hub of Africa. Most banks are headquartered in Johannesburg, industry experts reside throughout the country, and the banking infrastructure is developed and very advanced. We need to make sure we are not only close to our partners, but also valuable resources that will help us grow.

What is Wala’s business model?

The beauty of the Wala business model is that we make money when our customers save more money! We work in partnership with banks and other financial services providers to offer free or below market rate products. The Wala platform sits in between banks and customers eliminating many costs thereby creating a more efficient system for everyone.

We don’t generate revenue by charging fees on transactions or cross-selling products. Instead, our partners pay us for bringing assets into their banking system. We built our model this way so that we always stay in line with the needs and financial stability of our users. If they improve their financial lives, Wala succeeds.

Do you have any investors?

Wala is currently backed by angel investors that recognized a massive opportunity to innovate the banking industry throughout emerging markets while also solving a global problem impacting billions of people.

Do you have bank partners?

We are working closely with a number of banks and financial services provider so we can provide zero-fee banking and below market rate financial products to our users.

How is Wala helping to improve users savings culture?

The Wala philosophy is different from most financial companies. Rather than focusing on lending we focus explicitly on savings. There is no shortage of companies that are willing to offer consumers loans and that’s because they can do so at high interest rates that end up costing people an arm and a leg. Loan businesses are very profitable as long as they are run properly and loan businesses that target the poor or people with bad credit can even be predatory, making it worse for the consumer long-term.

Of course there are banks and companies that do provide good loans but we believe financial health starts with something more basic: a bank account. A bank account allows you to safely store your income, grow your savings, and even hold your loan money. Having an account helps you build a financial history, which will allow you get loans at lower interest rates in the future. With Wala, consumers can easily send payments to their community, pay bills, and access other great financial tools. But again, it all starts with a bank account!

Wala CoFounder and Chief of Product, Samer Saab.

Any plans to launch in new markets?

Of course! We plan to expand throughout Africa in the coming years to markets including Nigeria, Uganda, Ghana, Mozambique, Egypt, and many more. Wherever customers are in need of better banking, Wala will be there.

Which services compete with Wala and how is Wala unique from them? How different is Wala from a basic debit card or mobile money account?

Wala is the only company that can provide ZERO-FEE banking. From traditional banking to mobile wallets and payments to loans, most financial products in Africa are transactional-based meaning they charge consumers for any type of transaction. If you use mobile payments with a telecom provider you will incur fees to send money, receive money, hold money, withdrawal money, etc. But with Wala, we cover all fees for you and make the experience convenient through a digital only tool so that you don’t have to deal with the additional financial stress. No more hidden fees. No more long queues. Just Wala.

What have been your biggest challenges so far?

Change in any form is extremely difficult to accomplish and we are pushing boundaries on multiple fronts- banking, technology, policy. Everyday we have a new challenge, but we have an incredible team driving forward every step of the way.

As a financial company, most startup founders would agree with me when I say the greatest challenges are:

  • Acquisition- It takes time to build trust when you are dealing with people’s money. Fintech isn’t like building another social media app, it’s creating solutions for the most important asset in people’s lives- money.
  • Policy- Many regulators are risk averse and implement policy for a reason making it often times difficult to navigate complex systems. It can take a long time to build relationships with regulators and to get them on your side and in the startup world time is our most precious commodity.
  • Fundraising- Even if you have the greatest idea, solution, product, customers, etc. investors always want more especially when you are in underserved markets so you need to figure out how to stay lean and continue to build and grow with limited capital.



Google Unveils Tez, A Payment Platform Exclusively For India


Google has launched a new digital payment app named Google Tez for the Indian market. The app supports English and seven Indian languages including Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Marathi, Tamil, and Telugu. It is available for both Android and iOS platforms.

Google Tez links user’s bank account to Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay. You can use to perform transactions including money transfers, receive payments and pay for purchases.

Google revealed that Tez was made for India due to its growing tech hub.

The banks that Tez supports include Axis, HDFC Bank, ICICI and State Bank of India and others that support UPI. Online payment partners include large food chains like Dominos, transport services like RedBus, and Jet Airways according to the information on the website.

It is noteworthy to add that Tez is not a mobile wallet where users can store money in the app. It needs to be topped up to be used.

This launch will put Tex in direct competition with Paytm, India’s largest mobile wallet company. It launched 7 years ago and has Alibaba and Softbank has invested in the business.

Meanwhile, Google plans to introduce a mobile wallet option in the next year.


Mobile lender Branch raises $2m to bolster its micro-loans in East Africa


Micro-lending app Branch has raised $2m (ksh 200m) to bolster its loans to SMEs in Kenya and across the east African region as its loan book hits Ksh 4 billion and demand for loans skyrockets while supply shrinks.

The credit was arranged by Centum-owned Nabo Capital from local investors and fund managers according to Business Daily Africa.

The terms of the deal were not revealed the signifies a shift from normal sources of capital to fintech startups in Africa, and Kenya especially.

In December 2015, Branch became the first African-based startup to raise investment from Silicon Valley VC firm Andreessen Horowitz, whose portfolio includes Facebook and AirBnB, closing a $9.2m Series A round. The mobile-based financial services company has raised over $15m in equity and debt funding to date.

These investment is expected to help it grow its loans portfolio locally as well as take on its competition Tala (formerly Mkopo Rahisi), among others.

“Demand for mobile loans is likely to increase as the caps are shrinking the supply of credit in many traditional avenues,” Daniel Szlapak, director of Africa at Branch told the paper.

In July this year, Branch announced it had disbursed 1,500,000 loans since its launch in Kenya in 2015 and was now eying entry into Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation.

In Kenya, Branch had 350,000 customers and disbursing nearly $4m  Sh400 million a month. In Tanzania, the firm said it was growing by 30 per cent month over month since the beginning of the year.

“We’ve seen fantastic growth at Branch because we know what our borrowers expect from their financial partner: they want speed, transparency and convenience.We are disrupting the existing lending space by making credit available at the tap of a button, within minutes of downloading the app – no paperwork or collateral necessary,’’ said CEO Matt Flannery.

Branch offers MPesa loans of up to KSh 50,000 via an Android application that can be downloaded for free from the Google Play Store.

Lending decisions are made by a proprietary credit score calculated by analysing over 2,000 data points on applicants’ phones. New borrowers start out with a loan of up to KSh 1,000 and can grow their credit limit based on their repayment performance on previous loans.

The company’s growth has been spurred by its unique policy of offering lower interest rates to customers who have reached higher credit limits, thereby encouraging repeat uptake.

The firm launched a KSh30,000 loan targeted at Uber drivers and partnered with Jumia to give vendors working capital loans.